My son Ben loves the county fair. We always start in the animal barns, where he clucks and moos his way down the aisles, the animals patiently letting him pat and talk to them.
Then comes the midway, where he has uncanny luck at the games, always coming away with a prize.
The rides, however, are the highlight for him.
A few years ago, he spotted the fun house. It began with a mirror maze, and ended with a wiggly bridge and spiral slide. Ben’s eyes lit up in excitement and he handed over his tickets.
We stood outside watching him try to navigate the mirror maze, bumping into one mirror after another. Younger children raced by him, seemingly unfazed by the reflections while he reached out his arms, completely befuddled.
After five long minutes we asked the ride operator to help,
and shortly afterwards he slid down the exit slide and threw his arms up in victory.
Every year since then he has carefully avoided the fun house, returning instead to the relative safety of the game booths.
Do you ever feel like you’re trapped in a mirror maze like Ben was? Every time you think you’re making headway, you run up against another obstacle until you begin to wonder if you will ever find your way out to the other side. Other people don’t seem to have problems like you do. Their lives look easy, their smiles beaming in Instagram photos, outfits always on trend. You, however, feel the cold mirrors press in on you as your way seems blocked to the blessings that appear to come so easily to others.
Funny thing about a mirror maze. It turns out that the way through is found by looking down. The path is easy to discern when you cast your eyes away from your reflection.
“Opinions are like belly buttons”, my husband likes to say. “Everybody’s got one.” We live in a time when opinions are running harsh and hot through our conversations. Some of us are allowing our opinions to become confused with our faith. “Wake up, people!” has become the most overused phrase on my social media feeds the past few years.
Some of us have exchanged being faithful for being right. It has become more important to share the latest meme than it has to share the love of God.
The mirror maze is just an illusion. When we are constantly gazing at ourselves – our opinions, our desires and our dreams – we can confuse our limited perspective with reality.
But down below the anger and clamor, below the self-justification and virtue signaling, down where dirty feet need washing and where the lowly and the despised are struggling is where we are called to follow our Lord.
“Blessed are the meek,” Jesus said. Blessed are the humble, the merciful, and the peacemakers. The pure in heart. Blessed are those who take their eyes off of themselves and look to Jesus to show them the way through.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.Philippians 2:5-7
The world’s way through is to win at all costs, and its methods are accusation and humiliation; beating down our opponents without sparing an honest glance at our own actions and attitudes. After a while the reflection mirrored back to us becomes hardened and cold. We may win the argument, but we are losing our souls.
But the way of the cross calls us to win by losing. To gain by giving. To live by dying. It is a magnificent paradox of peace; a wholeness found among the shards of our striving.
This way is narrow, Jesus said, but it leads to life.
And, just perhaps, to the curly slide.
So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help. O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries. Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.Isaiah 30:18-21